If you haven’t already, go have a listen to the most recent Fly Reckless, where our very own Paul is a featured guest. It’s pretty funny (shout out to drunk Angus!), but they do cover some serious topics, including macro miners.
As mentioned in the podcast, Eve’s in-house economist, Dr. Eyjólfur “Eyjo” Guðmundsson (good luck pronouncing that), recently made a statement that banning all macro miners would crash the EVE economy. I’d like to be able to provide the source for this, but I couldn’t find it on the Google. Any reader who wants to take up this challenge will get some sort of bonus from me.
The idea of a “market crash” is that without the large supply of minerals supplied by macro miners, prices on everything would rise sharply. This would cause players to leave the game, is the theory, because they wouldn’t be able to buy things. I’m not sure this is actually the result. As supply drops, demand rises, driving costs of minerals up – and suddenly mining becomes more profitable. More players move into mining, and the prices stabilize. They just never return to the same prices as possible by large number of botters running 23/7.
I don’t think this is a bad thing. Mining is the redheaded stepchild of careers in EVE. Nothing is more boring than mining. It currently returns barely enough ISK to self-support an account by buying PLEX. A solid L4 missioner can pull in 50m or more an hour once they get some experience. Boosting the value of mining is to be considered a good thing, even if causes short-term havoc on the market. It also acts to drive up costs of everything – which in my mind is good. Make losing that T2 ship more painful. Better game play, more stress, more emotional investment.
My opinion on macro mining is slightly different than most. I do not think all macroers can ever be detected and eliminated. In order to determine the difference between a bot and a real person, you need a real person; computer’s can’t do it. The next smarter bot will just break the existing computer solution. Killing bots doesn’t scale well – it takes too many people and man hours.
The better solution is to make macro mining unprofitable – in real life. We know that macros are used to generate ISK which is then sold in RMT (real money transactions) to make real cash. If we can drop the value returned by macros below the point where it’s worthwhile for people to run the bots (and pay PLEX for accounts) then they’ll stop doing this and start doing something else.
My proposed solution has two components: It uses a method that penalizes macros more than regular players, and doesn’t break immersion. A key attribute of macros is that they can run non-stop; a lot of macros will run for 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. Slightly more clever ones will run for 18 hours and then take 6 hours off, and start again. At the same time, we know that very, very few real players actually mine non-stop for these volumes of time. They might do it once in a while, but for a month on end? No way. (If you do, I am so so sorry for you. Seriously.) We can’t just say anyone mining more than 18 hours a day is a bot, because we may actually catch a person actually doing this. The more hours you accumulate mining per month, however, the more likely you look like a bot.
We start by adding a new counter to every account (not just player, to prevent player switching on an account), and this is amount of time mining laser has been activated in the past 30 days. This value is incremented while the player has any mining laser active (but only once, no matter how many lasers active), which won’t be hard to program. This gives us an idea of how much this account mines.
Let’s take an average player miner, and say he mines for 2 to 4 hours a day, five days a week. Over a month this gives us 40 to 80 hours a month (or less, as mining lasers aren’t always active, but you get the idea). These guys shouldn’t get any penalty. Now go up to the really hardcore player miners, a very small bunch. Say they mine for 6 to 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. That’s 144 to 192 hours a month. Some of these guys might actually be bots, so we want to penalize them, but not much. Again, this is going to be a very small group. Who do you know that mines 8 hours a day 6 days a week? Above 192 hours a month we become increasingly sure that the account is a bot. A full-on, 23/7 account is 690 hours a month, and we’re 100% these guys are bots. They are harshly penalized.
Our penalty for being a botter – or at least seeming like one – will not be to outright ban, but to cut into the return. If you’re out mining for a really long time, it’s kind of reasonable that you might attract attention, of the bad type. So here’s what we do: Every hour, each miner has a certain percentage chance, increasing with number of hours mined, that dangerous pirates will spawn and attack. Our pirates will be four cruiser or battlecruiser class ships, and they all warp scramble. Furthermore, they scram as rapidly as CONCORD does. We do not want our botters to be aligned and just warp off when these guys spawn. These spawns have low bounty value and low or no drops, to prevent farming. If you’re a real player who plays an insane amount, bring a defense ship or corpmate. You should be able to afford it.
What percentages are we talking about? Up to 144 hours/month, 0%. From 144 to 200 hours/month, very slowly rising, say max of 5% at 200. The percentage then sharply rises after 200, hitting 100% around 300. 300 hours a month means this account is mining 10 hours a day, every single day of a month, without stop.
Q: Doesn’t this unfairly impact people who mine all the time?
A: If you mine 7 hours a day, every single day, without rest, it might. This is a tiny, tiny, tiny number of people. And a lot of bots.
Q: Won’t bots just limit themselves to mining only enough not to trigger the spawn?
A: If they do, that’s great. They’ve just limited their own income, putting them on the same level as regular human miners. They may stop entirely because the value isn’t worth it.
Q: Won’t macros start using cheap ships?
A: If they do, so much the better. It will again cap some of their income.
Q: Won’t macros start running missions?
A: I haven’t seen a successful mission macro yet; the complexity is large. It won’t be such a problem, as the effect on the mineral market from mining is smaller.
What do you say, readers?